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They Want to Live La Vida Menudo

Saturday afternoon at the Queens Center Mall, nearly 100 Latino teenage boys auditioned to be in Menudo, the Puerto Rico–born, Spanish-singing eighties boy group that cycled out members when their teens ended, packed stadiums throughout Latin America with jingle-y hits like “Subete a Mi Moto,” and, of course, spawned superstar Ricky “La Vida Loca” Martin. This being the age of reality TV, the making of the new band will play itself out in Road to Menudo, on MTV Tr3s, starting May 12. We talked with some of the contenders, at least one of whom seemed to have confused the boy-group auditions for a reggaeton smackdown.

JAYLEN SERRANO, 13
Puerto Rican and Peruvian, from Elmwood Park, New Jersey

Why do you want to be in the new Menudo?
It’s always been my dream to be an artist, and I like to sing.

Do you even remember any Menudo songs?
“Y Mi Banda Toca Rock.”

What’s that mean in English?
I’m not sure. I know it’s something with “rock” in it.

Do you want to be the next Ricky Martin?
I want to be myself!

JUSTIN CONCEPCION, 15
Puerto Rican, from Throgs Neck, Bronx

Do you even remember the original Menudo?
I remember that Ricky Martin was in it and my mom was obsessed with them.

Are you afraid that if you’re in Menudo, people will think you’re gay the way they think Ricky Martin is?
If you know what’s true in your heart, it really doesn’t matter what they think.

Is Ricky your role model?
Yes. I like his music and style in clothing.

Did you see those pictures of him on the beach in his Speedos with his trainer?
[Laughs.] No, I didn’t see them.

JORGE BARRANCO, 15
From Miami

So you’re here from Florida?
This is my third time auditioning.

What do you know about Menudo?
They were a pretty successful group back in their time.

What’s their most famous song?
“Subete a Mi Moto.”

Would you wear the costumes they wore?
I’ll do whatever it takes. If I have to go naked, I’ll go naked.

Do you want to be the next Ricky Martin?
I want to be bigger than Ricky Martin.

ALESSANDRO AMANTI, 31
Puerto Rican and Italian-Greek-Argentine, from Bay Ridge

So they cut you a break on the age thing?
Yeah, they said as long as you look 19, it's okay.

You think you look 19?
I could pass for 24. I’m just giving it a shot, papa. I just want a piece of this apple.

What do you know about Menudo?
In 1984, my cousin Pilara used to date Sergio, a Menudo member. Ricky Martin and I did a commercial in 1984 for La Gloria, a shoe store in Puerto Rico.

Did he have superstar written all over him?
Genetically, he was good-looking and sweet. Our mothers came from that same Spanish Catholic ambience of “Share your toys or I’ll slap you right now.”

If you make it into Menudo, can you keep up with all these young guys?
I have to, because, number one, I’m broke. And internally, I still feel 25, 26.

MICHAEL ORTIZ, 15
Puerto Rican, from Queens Village

Why do you want to be in Menudo?
I want to be like Daddy Yankee, Hector the Father, and Don Omar — the Latino [reggaeton] rappers.

What’s your favorite Menudo song?
Daddy Yankee.

That’s a rapper, not a Menudo song. Do you know the most famous person to come out of Menudo?
Don Omar?

No. What are you singing today?
“She’s Like the Wind” by Tony Sunshine. He’s a reggaeton rapper.

Can you sing too?
I can’t sing but I can rap.

Who’s your female music idol?
Shakira.

What duet would you do with her?
Tongue-kiss her.

GABRIEL BENITEZ, 15
From Miami

Why didn’t you audition in Miami?
I did, but I didn’t make the call.

What are you going to do differently this time?
Focus more. I went off pitch last time.

You have a very eighties look.
My dad, right over there, has the same look, except he has a little white hair.

How is the New York crowd different from Miami?
It’s more Dominican here, Cuban there. Also there the audition was outside and the crowd was more alive. Miami’s loud! — Tim Murphy